Hi, my name is Matthew Brown, and I was hired just over a month ago by the Diocese to serve for the summer as the Community Development Assistant for the Bishop’s Child Poverty Initiative. It’s my job over the next few months to do research and strategic planning in preparation for a formal launch of the Bishop’s new initiative this fall. When I’m not wearing my “CDA” hat, I’m a master’s candidate at Queen’s University in Kingston. I’m also a churchwarden in the Parish of Eastern Outaouais on the West Quebec side of our Diocese.
Child poverty is one of those things that often goes un-noticed in our community. But, while it may not always be easy to see the signs of poverty among our kids, unfortunately in the era of the “Great Recession” child poverty has quickly become a pressing social problem. Far too many children in our region go to school hungry, don’t have proper clothing, or don’t have access to the school supplies and toys that are supposed to make being a kid fun. Some kids may have young parents, single parents, be in foster care, be living in an isolated rural community, or simply be part of a family where their caregiver – despite their very best efforts – just can’t find a job. Whatever the situation may be, in the end it’s the children who suffer, as they are the ones who are ultimately robbed of a time in their lives that should be filled with joy, curiosity & wonder – not the hardships of poverty.
There are also larger social costs to think about. High dropout rates among poor kids lead to a subsequently higher unemployment rate in our increasingly knowledge based economy. Malnutrition, brought on by readily available junk food and high sodium products, which are sadly far cheaper for many low-income families to buy in comparison to good fruits and veggies, contributes dramatically to the ongoing childhood obesity pandemic. Broken families, strains to social services and limited recreation space for young people often lead to increased rates of teenage pregnancy…children having children…and all the consequences that ensue.
Whether we like it or not, poverty is a vicious cycle that often begins at childhood, and it’s in our collective interest as a society to do something about it.
Moreover, as followers of Christ, we are continually called to heed the example of He who instructed his disciples to “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:4, KJV)
To that end, the biggest part of my job this summer will be determining how our Diocese should collectively respond to poverty among children in our midst. The most important question I’ll be continually asking myself is “How are we, the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, given our faith, history, geography and gifts, best able to do our part to help alleviate child poverty in our egion?” If you have an answer, thought or idea, complete or incomplete, I want to hear from you! You can call me or email me using the information below, or follow the regular updates on Facebook & Twitter. Over the next two months I’ll be visiting our parishes, consulting with clergy and lay-leaders, talking to outside groups like school-boards, and working closely with the Community Ministry Development Committee’s Child Poverty Task Force as we all try to collectively discern what God is calling us to do in this area of our mission.
Our work won’t eliminate child-poverty, but I’m confident that by the end of this journey we will have made a significant difference in the lives of many children who deserve nothing less than to be the beneficiaries of Christian love. In the end, that’s what matters most.
Community Development Assistant
Bishop’s Child Poverty Initiative
Anglican Diocese of Ottawa
71 Bronson Ave.,
Ottawa, ON K1R 6G6
Like the Initiative on Facebook: www.facebook.com/adoPoverty
Follow the Initiative on Twitter: @adoPoverty